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Published July 8, 2019 | Published + Supplemental Material
Journal Article Open

Food Polyelectrolytes Compress the Colonic Mucus Hydrogel by a Donnan Mechanism


Systems consisting of a polyelectrolyte solution in contact with a cross-linked polyelectrolyte network are ubiquitous (e.g., biofilms, drug-delivering hydrogels, and mammalian extracellular matrices), yet the underlying physics governing these interactions is not well understood. Here, we find that carboxymethyl cellulose, a polyelectrolyte commonly found in processed foods and associated with inflammation and obesity, compresses the colonic mucus hydrogel (a key regulator of host–microbe interactions and a protective barrier) in mice. The extent of this polyelectrolyte-induced compression is enhanced by the degree of polymer negative charge. Through animal experiments and numerical calculations, we find that this phenomenon can be described by a Donnan mechanism. Further, the observed behavior can be quantitatively described by a simple, one-parameter model. This work suggests that polymer charge should be considered when developing food products because of its potential role in modulating the protective properties of colonic mucus.

Additional Information

© 2019 American Chemical Society. This is an open access article published under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the author and source are cited. Received: March 29, 2019; Revised: May 23, 2019; Published: June 19, 2019. This work was supported in part by Army Research Office (ARO) Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) contract no. W911NF-17-1-0402, the Jacobs Institute for Molecular Engineering for Medicine, the Center for Environmental Microbial Interactions (CEMI), an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship DGE-144469 (to A.P.S.), and a Caldwell CEMI Graduate Fellowship (to A.P.S.). We acknowledge Michael Porter for useful discussion and providing feedback on the manuscript; Andres Collazo and Caltech's Beckman Institute Biological Imaging Facility, the Caltech Office of Laboratory Animal Resources, and the Caltech veterinary technicians for technical support; Justin Rolando for providing microparticles; and Natasha Shelby for contributions to writing and editing this manuscript. Author Contributions: A.P.S. and R.F.I. designed the research; A.P.S. performed the research; A.P.S. analyzed the data. Z.-G.W. guided the theoretical analysis. All authors wrote the paper. The authors declare the following competing financial interest(s): The technology described in this publication is the subject of a patent application filed by Caltech.

Attached Files

Published - acs.biomac.9b00442.pdf

Supplemental Material - bm9b00442_si_001.pdf

Supplemental Material - bm9b00442_si_002.zip


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